Local jobless rate jumped in '08

Kingman-Lake Havasu City unemployment level pegged at 8.4 percent

KINGMAN - A new employment report released by the Arizona Department of Commerce has concluded what many have already come to realize firsthand - that unemployment has risen sharply in the past year, with construction and manufacturing among the hardest-hit industries.

The Arizona Workforce Employment Report, released Jan. 22, found that the statewide unemployment rate leapt 2.7 percent in 2008, from 4.2 percent in January to 6.9 in December. That translates to more than 116,500 non-farm payroll jobs lost for the year.

Arizona's unemployment rate remains behind the nationwide rate of 7.2 percent, but the Kingman-Lake Havasu City metropolitan area remains among Arizona's worst-off areas, finishing the year with an unemployment rate of 8.4 percent, up fully three percent from January 2008.

Proportionally, construction fared the worst at both the state and local level. Statewide, construction shed more than a fifth of its workforce, or roughly 44,000 jobs, including 11,500 jobs lost in new building construction and 28,900 jobs lost in specialty trades.

In Mohave County, the mining and construction fields lost 18 percent of their workforce for the year, accounting for about 1,000 jobs. Local manufacturers also lost a large chunk of their workforce - about 600 jobs, or 16.7 percent of the industry.

But while those sectors lost the highest proportion of jobs, the private service sector lost the most in sheer numbers, dropping 71,100 jobs statewide and 2,200 locally for the year. Of these jobs, retail trade fared the worst, losing 25,200 across the state.

The report did not include exact figures for retail trade in Mohave County, but the overall sector, comprising trade, transportation and utilities, lost about 900 jobs for the year, the bulk of which were almost certainly retail trade positions.

Only a spare handful of industries survived the year unscathed, and even fewer posted any actual gains in employment. Insurance carriers and securities businesses were one such sector, each breaking even for the year even as the credit and real estate industries lost a combined 7,000 jobs statewide.

Locally, financial services in general managed to dodge the bullet of the recent ongoing recession, at least for now - the local financial industry continues to employ about 2,600 people, as it did this time last year.

The few sectors that gained employment across the state are as varied as they are rare. Manufacturers of aerospace products and parts managed a gain of 300 jobs statewide in 2008, with the bulk of those coming on at year's end.

Segments of the leisure and hospitality sector also fared well, with arts, entertainment and recreational facilities posting an increase of about 1,200 jobs for the year. Accommodations businesses, such as hotels and motels, also saw a modest net gain of about 200 jobs. As a whole, however, the sector still experienced a net loss, with food services and drinking establishments shedding more than 11,000 workers over the same period. In Mohave County, leisure and hospitality services was one of the hardest-hit sectors, losing about 800 jobs.

"You've taken some hits in leisure and hospitality, and in mining," said Cheri Levinson, an economist with the AZ Department of Commerce. "Parts of the state that are more dependent on tourism are going to have more economic impact when you have an economic downturn."

By far the most successful job sector in 2008 was educational and health services, which posted a net gain of 9,100 jobs statewide and 100 jobs locally, the only sector in Mohave County to do so. The biggest gains within the sector were in health care and social assistance, with ambulatory health care services adding 3,600 jobs and hospitals adding another 2,700. In fact, the only losers in the sector were private educational services, which lost 300 jobs across the state.

State educational services fared even worse, however, cutting 3,400 jobs for the year. Conversely, local education added about 8,400 jobs statewide, though Mohave County's numbers remained nearly static.

For a full copy of the Arizona Workforce Employment Report, visit http://www.workforce.az.gov/ and look under "latest reports."